January 9, 2014
When I made the decision SEVERAL months ago to run the Dopey Challenge, I knew I was getting myself into four early mornings. Since I am NOT a morning person, this would certainly present some challenges for me. But, as it would be the inaugural Dopey Challenge and a necessary requirement in meeting my goal of doing every runDisney race in 2014, I knew I would push through my grumpiness and enjoy my experience.
Since I live relatively close to Walt Disney World, I made the decision to drive to the Family Fun Run on the morning of the race. This saved me a night on a hotel and a night on boarding my two dogs. And, if you have pets, you can sympathize with the costs associated with boarding them for even one night.
The 5k start time was slightly later than that of the other races of the weekend, but, I didn’t get the luxury of “sleeping in” since I made the choice to drive up the morning of the race. So, when that 3 AM alarm rang, I grumpily got out of bed and got dressed.
I always do myself a huge favor and layout all of my necessary gear the night before. This keeps me from forgetting something and also keeps me from having to use my foggy brain so early in the morning. I don’t drink coffee, so I have to give myself a leg up somehow.
I got dressed, took my pups out for a quick potty, and headed out the door. I allow myself some extra time so I can get a bite to eat (thank you Dunkin’ Donuts for your delicious egg and cheese wake-up wraps!) and to park and walk to the race start. Since the race is at EPCOT and I am familiar with the parking area, I know that I can be parked rather far away from the start. I also allow myself some extra time because I am a slow mover and it takes me some time to really wake up. I can get to my corral and chat with fellow runners while we all wait or I can just sit and listen to the music and the announcers while I’m trying to figure out why I signed up for this self-inflicted punishment.
I’ve run a few other Disney races but this will be first Disney 5k. I’m in corral D so even after the race starts, I’ll have a wait. The corrals are released about five minutes apart so I’m going to be waiting about 15 minutes after corral A takes off. This is also a timed 5k which isn’t something that runDisney normally does.
It seems like it has been almost an hour of sitting when it’s finally time for corral A to take off. Everything seems to move quickly from that point on. Corral A moves to the start line and, before the fireworks send them on their way, a Disney performer sings the National Anthem. I don’t know about you, but I get chill bumps every time I hear the National Anthem. We’re so lucky to live with so many freedoms (like the freedom to get up before the roosters to run through theme parks with cheering crowds and awesome photo ops!). Corral A gets the fireworks and they’re off. After they take off, the minutes just fly by and before I knew it, corral D was moving to the start line.
As if it wasn’t enough that we’re anxiously waiting to take off, the fabulous duo of race announcers informs the remaining corrals that the winner of the 5k has just crossed the finish line. Corral D still has about two minutes before we even get our send off. While the winner enjoys their post race snacks, we finally get our fireworks and we’re off.
The first mile of the 5k is all parking lot and open road. It’s pretty boring but the course is pretty crowded and there are a lot of families running together (in other words, a lot of kids) so you have to pay attention. For me, most of the first mile was weaving in and out of people and dodging a couple of kids that stopped randomly. At the first mile marker, we were heading into the backlot of EPCOT and about a quarter of a mile later, we were entering the World Showcase near Mexico. Running through the countries was really cool. I’ve been to EPCOT many times, but seeing all the countries in lights and without it being super crowded with guests really gives you the opportunity to take in the beauty of the park and each country throughout the World Showcase. (Here’s a PDF of the 5k course map)
As I made my way through the World Showcase, I decided not to stop for any photo ops. I have three more days of running, and (unfortunately) I have to drive back home after the race to take care of some errands including dropping my pups off at the kennel. I’ll then head back to Disney to check in to my hotel room for the remainder of the weekend. So, while I should enjoy the run and the experience a little more, I just enjoy the sites and keep running so I can get on with my day.
The majority of the second half of the race is in the park so there is plenty to see. And, for the last (maybe) quarter mile, it’s mostly parking lot but there are a lot of cheers from the spectators and cast members. The final stretch brings the runners past the grandstands where there are lots of cheering spectators. Every time I run through the final stretch and cross a finish line; no matter how big or small the race; I still get a big smile and feel a wave of excitement and happiness as I cross. Hearing all the cheering and feeling the sense of accomplishment never gets old.
I finished my 5k in 36:13. Considering the crowds, I am more than happy with my time. It isn’t a personal record but I also didn’t run hard. I still have three more races to go this weekend and they get progressively longer. My goal was to run this one easy and comfortably and just enjoy the scenery and I did that.
I head through the runner’s chute, get my finisher’s medallion (a plastic “medal” that is super cute with Pluto on it), and grab a water and a Powerade before heading down the chute to the photo area and the check-in stations. Dopey Challenge runners have to check-in and get a special wrist band to show they completed the race. We’ll get one of these after each race so that, at the end of the day four, we can collect our Dopey Challenge finisher’s medals. I collect my wrist band and stop for an official finisher photo before heading through the runner’s area. I grab my runner box of food and go find a cozy piece of the parking lot to stretch and eat for a few minutes. It’s only 7:30 AM, I’ve been up for four hours, I’ve already done a 5k but I still have a very busy day ahead of me.
I trek back to my car and head back home so that I can get the rest of my day taken care of and get back to Disney in the early afternoon. I’d like to be able to catch a short nap or at least relax for awhile after checking in at the hotel as I purchased a ticket to the Pasta in the Park Party for tonight. This will be my first experience with that and I’d like to be moderately awake to enjoy it!
Overall, I enjoyed the 5k as much as I could. I ran it and just kind of got it out of the way since I had a full day ahead of me. I didn’t stop for pictures so I did miss some of the runDisney experience. That said, the only picture that I really would’ve stopped for was with Dopey. I considered stopping since he was on the course, but the line was SUPER long, so I opted to just get on with it. I hope I’ll get another opportunity during another race or maybe during some other of the weekend events. There’s certainly plenty more weekend to come!